Monday, 27 August 2012

East Coast Paddling

It was a last minute family holiday before the kids go back to school.  I found myself on the south east coast of England on the Thames Estuary, Kent.  I had an offer from Jay to join him and some other local paddlers for a trip around the Medway...
Six of us in all met up in Rochester town centre and made our way down to Lower Upnor, one of the few places to launch on the Medway.  Almost the entire coast along the Thames Estuary is mud at any time other than high water.

An overcast day, southerly 4-5 forecast, 6 at times, slight to moderate.  It starts of breezy as we make our way up the narrow stretches of the river.
Remnants of a past busy shipping industry lay eroding into the banks.  Power stations and huge jetties take their place on all sides. 
As the river opens out (5-6 kilometres in places), the wind strengthens across the open water.  Plenty of traffic moves up and down the river. 
I enjoy a bit of surf from a following wind leaving the others behind.
So I take the opportunity to try out my limited edition Mars Caramel, mmmmm!
We pass some huge cargo ships thankfully quietly moored at the loading jetties.
We take the opportunity to re-group and rest behind a small island out of the wind.  I'm thankful of the company and local knowledge because without it I would be completely lost in this shallow maze of marshes and creeks.
We continue along the southern side of the river out of the wind and onto the Isle of Sheppey and under Sheerness Pier.
Sheerness beach stretches out before us with it's WWII batteries looking out over the estuary.  The round one on the right was used as an extended defence officer post commanding the controlled minefield.  The left was used as on observation post with a gun on top.  The centre tower was a fire control tower.  The centre tower has a false pitched roof and windows to disguised it as a domestic building.

11 miles into our trip we reach our destination and take the opportunity to land and have lunch.  In the picture above you may be able to make out the masts of the wrecked SS Richard Montgomery, a WWII cargo ship carrying 1,500 tons of explosives, enough to flatten Sheerness and the surrounding area should it ever detonate.

We slip off back into the water for the return journey back down the Medway.  We leave a little early with another hour before the tide starts to flood back into the Medway.
We cross back over to the north bank of the river into a strong headwind.  It's a long crossing and is a hard slog for all.
More fortifications intended to be used in conjunction with the Sheerness fortifications.
One paddler in particular was finding the strong winds increasingly difficult, especially without a skeg to help track the boat.  Me and Jay discus the situation and weigh up the options, our worry was getting back before dusk.  With very few (if any) 'get out' points, due to the vast expanses of mud we opt for a double tow.  We beach our boats briefly on the mud and set up our tow systems.
We make excellent progress, over 3 knots against the flow into a strong head wind whilst towing another paddler.  Not many pictures from here on, head down and into to the wind all the way.
We make brief stops to allow us to re-group.
Hoo Fort, built to defend the approaches of the Royal Dock Yard at Chatham.  Back in the sheltered narrow confines of the river I get my freedom back and the tow it unleashed.  After a 10 mile tow I let the tide carry me along the final stretch.  Keeping up with Jay in the Rockpool Taran was hard work.
We land and the slipway for the following reasons....
I thought the Bristol Channel was bad!  Roughly 22 nautical miles in total over about 7.5 hours.  Fish and chips and a nice cold pint to finish the day.  Here are some sun set pictures from back at the caravan park...

Always good to meet new people and paddle new places.  There are a few other trips I would have liked to have done around this area but spent the rest of the week with the family.  Really enjoyed the paddle, thanks again everyone for the company and hope to see you on the water again sometime.

1 comment:

stoney (Martyn) said...

Very differant!
Would like to do something on the East coast sometime.
Good efforts